Leading article: Book biting

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Reminded of the long odds against her Man Booker win on Tuesday night, Anne Enright replied that "the bookies do horses". Unlike the pundits, particularly those whose forays into the world of books are limited largely to occasions of this kind, she had not allowed her expectations to be affected by her status as a "rank outsider". She had, she said, always written what she wanted and would continue to do so. Which in this case proved to be a moving, angry and at times bleakly funny novel which richly deserved to win one of literature's most high-profile prizes.

Her calm words were in stark contrast to those of the Man Booker chair, Howard Davies, who used the occasion to launch a fierce attack on the literary world. Lambasting critics for their lack of "critical scepticism", he declared that established writers were treated with excessive reverence while "newer talents" were ignored.

Few would deny the imperative to find fresh and memorable voices among the 120,000 or so books published in this country every year, a challenge to which most literary editors devote considerable energy – and midnight oil. But if the "big names" of the books world spend their Sunday mornings floating in a warm bath of accolades, they conceal it remarkably well. Martin Amis, Zadie Smith, Jeanette Winterson and John Banville are among those who might acknowledge that reading one's reviews – in this newspaper at least – is not always a process to soothe a fractured soul.

We do, of course, understand the desire to generate a headline. We also understand that truth is stranger even than Booker-winning fiction – and more elusive.